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Best Packing Cubes for Organized Women

Women on the Road
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Do you like being organized when you travel?

I do, very much (being a Taurus means I thrive on lists). I'm the kind of person that even color-codes her lists, and I have special pens for different types of writing.

You don't have to go to these extremes but if you've ever rummaged through your suitcase and flung things out in frustration, you'll love these. Goodbye mess, it's time to de-stress. 

HOW 3 SIMPLE TRAVEL PACKING BAGS CHANGED MY LIFE

I always thought I was organized in my packing. After all, I drew up my first packing list in the 1980s, before templates and apps and list exchanges on social media.

But in truth, my suitcase usually looked like as though it had encountered a tornado.

Until I discovered packing cubes.

On my last trip, my suitcase looked like THIS. (Some days it's even neater.)

WHAT ARE TRAVEL PACKING CUBES, ANYWAY?

These marvelous little cubes are basically packing organizers - small pouches made of synthetic material into which you slip your belongings. This keeps them all together and prevents everything from jumbling itself up in your suitcase or backpack.

You can use a few small ones for toiletries and underwear, and still leave your clothes flat at the bottom of your suitcase.

Or you can do what I now do, which is to fill my suitcase with a couple of large packing cubes and one or two smaller ones.

do packing cubes work? HOW TO PACK WITH PACKING CUBES

Of course they work! Here's the method I use.

  • Decide what to pack. As with any packing adventure, I start by laying out what I'm taking on the bed. Then I get rid of half of it (that's the half I never end up wearing).
  • Group things logically. Then I group like with like. Cosmetics in one pile, creams in another. Underwear and socks together. Tops in one pile, bottoms in another, scarves in another and so on.
  • Choose your travel bag. I decide whether I'm taking a backpack or a carry-on because space will be as much a determinant as weight.
  • Decide how many cubes to take. This will depend on the length of my trip. A carry-on will usually fit two small cubes and one medium or large one, depending on the bag.
  • Start packing. How you do this is a personal choice. Some women like to roll their clothes. Others bunch them by placing them one on top of the other and then rolling them. The easiest (and laziest) method is to simply place things in layers, as you would normally do in a suitcase. 

You can actually chunk down your packing cubes into even smaller installments: just add a Ziploc or similar plastic bag inside your cube - sort of cubes within a cube.

A note on packing

Rolling and bunching works best with softer, lighter items, like blouses or thin cardigans. With heavier sweaters or jeans, this method can actually take up more room and using a simple layering method works best.

WHY USE PACKING CUBES? THE PROS AND CONS

Unless you already use packing cubes yourself, you may still be harboring a tiny doubt or two. Don't! I can tell you that packing cubes revolutionized the way I pack, and what I take with me.

I used to hate packing - now it's actually fun. (Well, less frustrating, anyway.)

the pros of packing cubes

✅ You'll find your things more easily, especially if your cubes are in different colors.

✅ It's a great way to feel organized when life around you is so disorganized. No matter how neat, clothes in your suitcase have a way of rearranging themselves when let loose.

✅ You can easily see what you've packed without having to turn your suitcase inside out.

✅ You don't actually have to unpack in your hotel room. Leave things in the cubes and place these on the closet shelf (which hasn't necessarily been cleaned to your standards, by the way).

✅ Going through security is a breeze and you won't have everyone staring at your underwear if you have to open your carryon or your backpack.

✅ If your suitcase breaks (or explodes, as once happened to me) your things will stay together.

✅ You can pack your valuables into one of the smaller ones and just slip it into your purse if your suitcase gets tagged for the hold. So much better than having to repack your suitcase at the gate.

✅ The smaller cubes are great for slipping into your daypack.

✅ You can use one for your dirty laundry.

the cons of packing cubes

❌ Because you can fit more things in, it's easier to overpack, which means more weight and stronger wrinkles.

❌ If you're not accustomed to using cubes, you might forget what's in which cube and you may have to open a couple before you find your precious scarves. 

❌ Zippers can break. Or so I hear, because it's never happened to me...

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST TRAVEL CUBES

They may look the same, but each packing cube set is different. Here are some key characteristics to consider.

  • The size of the bags in the set. Some sets come with two cubes of similar size, while others may come with 3-4 different sizes. If your cubes are too big, they won't be of much use - you might as well jumble all your clothes into a suitcase since everything will get mixed up anyway. Some of the larger ones are even too big to fit into carry-on bags!
  • Packing cube colors. For some reason most manufacturers make all cubes in a set the same color. So if you use several of the same size, you won't necessarily know what each one contains. Get a friend to buy a set of a different color, and trade one of the bags.
  • The weight of each bag. Usually, the heavier they are, the sturdier but some of the lightweight cubes are of extremely high quality and durable - so expect to pay the price. Also, if your cubes are quite heavy, they might actually affect the weight of your cabin baggage. With restrictions very tight, especially on discount airlines, every bit of weight counts.
  • Think of the mesh. I love those mesh fronts because they let me see what's inside. But if you plan to put dirty clothes or muddy sneakers in there, think twice because you might be soiling the entire contents of your suitcase. You can easily remedy this by bringing along a plastic bag to put into your cube or by buying a shoe bag. The mesh can also tear or get caught on something.

Special packing cubes tip

Buy more than you think you'll need because like handbags, you'll want a selection of sizes you can mix and match or trade with your friends. If you need smaller units add a few heavy-duty ziplock bags to separate things even more inside a larger packing cube.

COMPARISON CHART: BEST PACKING CUBES

Name

Image

Pieces

Colors

Details

Price

4pc

8 colors

Water-resistant; 4" deep plus a laundry bag

$

6pc

7 colors and color mixes

Lifetime guarantee; lightweight

$$$

4pc

6 colors

Cheap packing cubes without compromising on quality

$

3pc

3 colors for standard sizes - others may have more colors

Ultra lightweight and plenty of additional sizes

$$$

3pc

14 colors, including some patterns

Lifetime warranty (and my top choice!)

$$

Image

Pieces

4pc

Colors

8 colors

Details

Water-resistant; 4" deep plus a laundry bag

Price

$

Image

Pieces

6pc

Colors

7 colors and color mixes

Details

Lifetime guarantee; lightweight

Price

$$$

Image

Pieces

4pc

Colors

6 colors

Details

Cheap packing cubes without compromising on quality

Price

$

Image

Pieces

3pc

Colors

3 colors for standard sizes - others may have more colors

Details

Ultra lightweight and plenty of additional sizes

Price

$$$

Image

Pieces

3pc

Colors

14 colors, including some patterns

Details

Lifetime warranty (and my top choice!)

Price

$$

PACKING CUBES REVIEWS

If you need a bit more detail than the comparison chart, here is some additional information about each of the packing cubes above.

shacke packing cubes review

This set of luggage packing cubes is hugely popular and comes in a set of four - from extra large to small, which gives you good choices for packing. Most other cubes come in sets of 3, so the Shacke does give you more versatility.

They also come in bright colors and the double stitching makes them highly durable. In case you don't want to use the cubes for your laundry, there's a fun laundry bag provided with the set.

These cubes are particularly deep, so if you're a mega-packer this might be the choice for you. 


PRO PACKING CUBES REVIEW

This particular six-piece set comes in a jumble of colors (you can also get them in a single color). You can pack quite a lot in because of the large mesh surface and the mesh's sturdiness. Be aware, though, that although the word compression is used in their name they don't really serve as compression travel bags: they have no compression straps or zippers to push out the extra air in your packing cube. You can choose between four or five pieces and among large and small sizes.


amazon PACKING CUBES REVIEW

These are no-fuss packing cubes, simple and light. They come in sets of four pieces and each cube in the set is of a different size. They also come in six colors but users have reported that the dye could run, especially if they get wet, so I'd recommend you stick to the silver ones if you happen to have white clothes to pack. Otherwise, they are perfectly fine for regular wear and tear.


eagle creek PACK IT system REVIEW

Eagle Creek is synonymous with quality for everything travel and packing cubes are no exception. While the standard set carries three pieces, it's easy to supplement your cubes with extra sizes such as a toiletry bag set, a set of small sacs or shoe bags. They are water-resistant and machine washable, which partly accounts for the higher price. (You can also buy Eagle Creek compression bags, whose zipper collapses when the cube is near empty but which opens up when you fill it to capacity.)


EBAGS PACKING CUBES REVIEW - my favorite!

All these packing cubes are good but this one is my personal favorite - I have several sets (most of them orange). I've used them on four continents and they've withstood my rough handling. They're soft-sided and deceptive in size - you can fit a lot more than you think in them. In fact, I rarely use the large and use the medium instead, along with two of the smaller ones. These three packing cubes saw me through a five-week trip through Asia in several climates so they absolutely get my thumbs up!

And if you prefer compression, ebags also has travel compressor bags with an extra side zipper - a great option if you're talking bulky winter clothes along.


ALTERNATIVES TO TRAVEL CUBES

COMPRESSION BAGS FOR TRAVELING

Everyone talks about compression bags and in theory, they're a wonderful thing. In truth, I haven't yet found a set that works the way it's supposed to - but then, I haven't tried them all.

I'm familiar with two main types of compression bag, the ones with straps and those with zippers. 

I find the ones with straps work better. I once had an early version of this Gobi Gear Hobo Roll and was amazed at how much I was able to compress into it. I had far less success with the zippered plastic bags - I haven't tried one whose zipper didn't rip after 3-4 uses. Frankly, I wouldn't waste my money on these; if you must have this kind of bag, get some large ziplock-type bags and use those instead. At least it won't cost a lot to replace them.

There is another kind of compression bag - I haven't tried these but I'm tempted. One brand that gets good reviews is the Eagle Creek Compression Bag series.

THE TOILETRY TRAVEL BAG

Another alternative to packing cubes are bags for toiletry storage. Most of these are either carrying bags, or unfold and can be hung for easy access. I can't say I'm partial to these - I'd rather use a small packing cube and put a few transparent zippered bags inside, with various toiletries grouped together. Even pencil cases or plain plastic bags can do.

I tend to group like with like - medicines together, day creams together, cleansers together and so on. I also decant my toiletries into smaller airline-compliant travel bottles and bottles - the only time I take the original container is when there's hardly anything left and I can throw it out somewhere along the way. I also try to take any beauty samples I've collected because they're light and I won't be bringing them back.

If you're keen on keeping everyting in a single bag, toiletry bags like this one are sturdy and practical but mostly useful for short trips. This toiletry bag lies a bit flatter and can also be hung up.

But even the most expensive toiletry bag can be a waste if the size is wrong, and size is one of the most common complaints, so know exactly what you're taking, and make sure it all fits before you buy.